A series of powerful new films from medics in the NHS are launched encouraging people to quit, including Dr Ruth Sharrock and GP Dr Chris Tasker from the North East.
It comes as new YouGov data  commissioned by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) reveals more than two in every 5 (42%) smokers expect to get advice about quitting, even when visiting their GP on a non-smoking related matter.
The survey highlights the difference healthcare professionals can make:
- 28% of smokers say that the advice would prompt them to make a quit attempt.
- A further 35% would be encouraged to quit at a later date or to cut down the number of cigarettes smoked.
- Even among smokers who say they wouldn’t expect advice to stop, more than half (53%) would take some action to address their smoking if their GP advised them to do so.
Today the British Thoracic Society also publishes preliminary results from an audit of over 14,000 hospital patient records in 2021. This found that less than half of smokers had been advised to stop and under a third had been offered medication to help with their smoking.  This highlights the importance of a new programme the NHS is currently rolling out to offer support to every smoker who stays in hospital in England.
Dr Ruth Sharrock, Respiratory Consultant and Clinical Lead for Tobacco Dependency with the North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care System, said: “She added: “These figures show just what an impact the NHS can have on supporting smokers. As doctors and healthcare professionals we have a duty to ask about smoking and show smokers what support is available – if we don’t patients will think it doesn’t matter.
“If you smoke you’re probably aware of risks like lung cancer, COPD, heart attack and stroke – but you might not realise how quickly your health improves from the moment you stop.
“We are encouraging patients not to wait and give it a go for No Smoking Day – it is never too late no matter how many times you’ve tried before.”
“The NHS Long Term Plan sets out how hospitals across the country will be playing an even bigger role in helping patients to quit. This will be a priority in the North East and North Cumbria in 2022 to ensure every smoker admitted to hospital will be asked about smoking status and given the support to remain tobacco free – at least for the duration of their stay in hospital.”
Newcastle GP Dr Chris Tasker said: “We as health professionals have a duty to support patients to stop smoking. It only takes seconds but can have everlasting effects on their health.
“Some patients might not feel ready – but others are, and in the future they’ll say thanks for helping them to stop. There are still too many who smoke and who are risk of ill health and early death. It is important to help smokers avoid the sort of diseases like COPD and cancer which may have shortened the lives of their parents.”
In the North East and North Cumbria, Fresh is running the Don’t Wait campaign aimed at raising awareness of both the risks of smoking and the benefits of stopping. The campaign is being part funded by the North East and North Cumbria ICS Smokefree NHS/Treating Tobacco Dependency Taskforce as well as local authorities in Northumberland, Tyne and Wear and County Durham.
Ailsa Rutter OBE Director of Fresh and Balance said: “Campaigns like Don’t Wait and No Smoking Day are vitally important to keep reminding people about the importance of quitting and to keep trying.
“Smoking is still one of our biggest causes of death, disease, hospital admissions and health inequalities in the North East, killing 113,000 people in the region since the year 2000.
“I would encourage anyone quitting to make sure they get the medication and the support they need to keep going and stay off tobacco and consider switching to a less harmful vaping device. As well as improving overall health, quitting can reduce stress levels within a few weeks and save you thousands of pounds.”
Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of Action on Smoking and Health, said: “No one should give up on giving up. Every time someone tries to stop smoking, they are a step closer to success. Like anything worth doing it can take practice to stop smoking – but there is lots of help out there.
“Smokers are three times more likely to succeed in quitting with help from a trained professional than with willpower alone. Healthcare professionals can refer them to this support but smokers can also find their local free service by searching ‘smokefree’ and entering their postcode.
“NHS staff fear smokers won’t listen to them, but they can make the difference. Most smokers wish they’d never started and are looking for a way out. Any health professional can help show them the way and have an everlasting impact on someone’s health. Today is the day to seize the moment.”
Visit www.nhs.uk/better-health/quit-smoking/ to find out where you can get free access to the latest quitting aids, apps, information, one-to-one advice, and local support.
The facts about smoking in the North East
In the North East 15.3% of people smoke – this has been the biggest fall in smoking in England from 29% of people in 2005.
Smoking remains the single biggest preventable cause of death and illness in England with 74,600 deaths in England in 2019. 1 in every 2 smokers will die from a tobacco-related disease.
Smoking has killed over 8 million people in the UK since 1971. It has killed over 113,000 people here in the North East since the year 2000.